by Seth Hemmelgarn
As it expands, a Bay Area nonprofit that works with the transgender community has moved its headquarters to the East Bay.
Transgender Law Center, which had been based in the Flood Building in downtown San Francisco, moved last week to 1629 Telegraph Avenue, Suite 400, in Oakland. The nonprofit will maintain an office in San Francisco.
"Transgender Law Center has expanded in recent years," TLC Executive Director Masen Davis said in response to emailed questions. "We have more staff, volunteers, and clients than ever, and we no longer fit in our Flood Building offices."
Additionally, said Davis, commercial leases have increased "dramatically" since TLC negotiated its lease, and if the agency had stayed at its Flood offices, rent would have gone up about $10 per square foot.
"We looked extensively for other office spaces in San Francisco, and could not find an affordable space that could accommodate our staff and volunteers," he said. "The financial difference between Oakland and San Francisco equaled a staff person. From a mission perspective, it made sense to open a new office in Oakland while also maintain a base in San Francisco."
The center's work includes changing laws and policies and providing legal assistance to transgender people who face discrimination.
TLC occupied about 1,900 square feet at the Flood Building at $33 per square foot. In Oakland, where it has a five-year lease, the nonprofit has approximately 3,400 square feet for about $24 a square foot.
The agency is negotiating a lease at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street. Starting in August, TLC anticipates "that we'll have an attorney located on site most days," said Davis. Initially, the nonprofit will occupy space in the lobby that the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus formerly used as a box office.
"This should provide convenient access for San Francisco community members seeking our services," said Davis. "Over time, we hope to take on more space at the center as it becomes available."
He said the move to Oakland wouldn't impact most clients, "especially given how much of our support is provided via phone and the Internet." The move will allow TLC "to provide timely and sustainable support to the more than 2,500 people who contact us each year" by allowing the agency to work with more volunteers and giving staff "a bit more breathing room," he added. At the Flood Building, four to five people had been working in offices originally designed for one person. The center has a budget of about $1.25 million and 12 staff.
In addition to getting new office space, the agency has hired two new staff members.
Kris Hayashi, 38, has joined TLC as deputy director and Sasha Buchert has been selected as staff attorney.
Hayashi, who identifies as queer and transgender, has been active in social, racial and economic justice organizing for over 20 years. For the last 10, he's served as the executive director/co-director of the Audre Lorde Project, an organizing center based in New York City.
He said he's "really excited" to "be at a place that's really advancing work for trans communities here in California and nationally." He started at TLC a month ago.
Buchert is joining TLC from Basic Rights Oregon, the state's chief LGBT advocacy organization, where she most recently worked as the transgender policy organizer. The 45-year-old, who identifies as pansexual and transgender, hasn't yet started work at Transgender Law Center.
In a Facebook message, Buchert said she wants to help continue the momentum toward "full equality for transgender and gender non-conforming people."
"Whether it's advocating against employment and health care discrimination, helping trans folks obtain accurate identity documents, or in a myriad of other contexts, I've witnessed the impact the TLC has had on moving transgender justice forward and it will be an honor to serve with the organization," said Buchert.
The nonprofit has an opening for a coordinator to support the national Trans Advocacy Network and coordinate TLC programs such as the agency's leadership summit.
Priced out of SF
Davis said he and others at TLC "have been struck by how many San Francisco nonprofits have moved all or many staff to the East Bay," signifying that many nonprofits and their staffers "are getting priced out of the city," he said.
"I hope the city looks at this issue seriously," said Davis. "Nonprofits provide important jobs and support for the residents of San Francisco, and the city loses when nonprofits are priced out. I urge the supervisors to consider ways to create more sustainable spaces for nonprofits to survive and flourish in the city."
Similar sentiments were expected to be at the heart of a panel discussion held Tuesday night at the San Francisco Public Library: "Sky high rents, disappearing non-profits."
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, executive director of Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project, was set to be one of the panelists.
In an interview this week, Griffin-Gracy said a rent increase was behind TGIJP's move to Oakland in April. The agency, which among other work aims to assist low-income transgender women who are in prison, is now sharing space with Transgender Resources and Advocacy Center for Youth, a program of AIDS Project East Bay.
TGIJP had been paying $1,400 a month in San Francisco and the agency is now paying half that.
Griffin-Gracy didn't know how much square footage her agency had in San Francisco, "but it was pretty big." The new space is about half the size, but it's big enough to meet the agency's needs, since it can make use of AIDS Project space.
"It's a good arrangement for us," she said.
However, she expressed some concern for San Francisco-based clients.
"A lot of people don't cross that bridge" or take BART to Oakland, which is "like a foreign country" to many, and vice versa, she said. However, Griffin-Gracy travels "at least once every other week" to "see the girls" who are in San Francisco, she said. TGIJP has a budget of about $75,000.